Uber slashes fee in fare war

Controversial ride-sharing company Uber has slashed the price of its no-frills transport service 20 per cent and claims its UberX service is now half the cost of a taxi.

Uber announced the price cut yesterday, putting a renewed focus on the State Government's inability to rein in a service that Transport Minister Dean Nalder described on its launch as "not a legal service".

UberX, pitched as a "low cost" service, uses ordinary four-door passenger vehicles driven by Uber "partner drivers", effectively contractors who have passed the company's security screening process. That includes a police clearance and getting an F (bus or small charter vehicle) or T (taxi) extension to a WA driver's licence.

The company claims a journey to the Perth CBD could cost as little as $13 from Nedlands, $14 from Applecross, $9 from Mt Lawley and $22 from Perth Airport.

According to its website, Uber charges a $2.25 flagfall and $1.10 a kilometre.

Swan Taxis, which dispatches about 90 per cent of Perth's cabs, has a $4.20 flagfall Monday- Friday 6am-6pm and $6.10 outside those times and on public holidays, plus $1.72 a kilometre.

Swan charges a $1.50 call-out fee for cabs booked by phone, website or app, and a $3.60 peak surcharge between midnight and 5am on Friday and Saturday.

By law, maximum fare schedules for taxis are approved by the State Government, but Uber has refused to be part of that.

During periods of peak demand, Uber applies what it calls "surge pricing", which could more than double the standard fare.

Department of Transport general manager of passenger services Aaron de Rozario said an investigation was under way and it was inappropriate to comment.

Mr Nalder refused to comment on Uber's pricing changes but said the Government would release a Green Paper on "on- demand transport" this year.

Shadow transport minister Ken Travers said the average taxi had more than $400 a week of on-costs, including taxi licence fees that Uber was avoiding.

"The Government needs to tell us what their plans are for Uber, they've still got a confused message," he said.

Taxi Council of WA chief executive Joanna Lockyer said it was difficult for taxis to compete with "unlawful operators" who might drop prices one day but increase them dramatically the next.